Cumberland’s Tower House goes on the market

Cumberland’s Tower House goes on the market

The Lewis Tower House, shown here at dusk at 2211 Mendon Road, has been completely redone after more than 30 years of being vacant, and is now up for sale. (Photos: Mark Dalmeida)
Portion of proceeds will go to Keefe Aviation Fund

CUMBERLAND – The transformed 1825 Lewis Tower House, turned into a modern masterpiece by Jeff Polucha and Paula Keefe in honor of Keefe’s late son, Michael, is complete, and the couple has now listed the property for sale.

On Wednesday, March 10, Keefe and Polucha listed the local landmark property at 2211 Mendon Road for $499,000 with Brendan Duckworth and Duckworth Homes, of Lincoln. They'll host an open house this Saturday, March 13, from noon to 2 p.m.

The couple said they couldn’t be happier with how the three-bedroom, two-bathroom home has turned out, despite investing way more money and time into it than they’d once anticipated.

“It all came together,” said Polucha, adding that the goal was to balance history and respect the past while adding contemporary living inside. “This is a labor of love.”

This home could probably last another 200 years, they said. There are really no comparable sales to this one because it is so unique, they added, so they went with Duckworth’s recommendation on a sale price. They said this is an opportune time to sell, and this home has generated plenty of public interest, but it’s difficult to say how much interest the property will generate from would-be buyers.

Chimneys were rebuilt with original brick, retaining walls were restored, and granite and cobblestones were also repurposed on the property, with old cobblestones used at the end of the driveway. The thick old window frames have also been restored, enclosing high-end Anderson windows used in historic homes.

The distinctive southern-style two-story front porch was totally rotted, they said, but it was rebuilt in a post-and-beam fashion.

The home itself is also post-and-beam, brought right down to the studs before reconstruction began.

Solid fir wood supports were used as replacements, even for decorative posts. Replacement handrails were custommade to be in modern code. Rotted sills were also all replaced, as was the roof.

Some highlights include a repurposed hand-hewn mantel beam, as well as two cabinet doors over the original fireplace repurposed to new spots. Original wide-plank floors were also restored.

The two front doors are also original to the house, as is most of the siding, as Polucha and Keefe hand-scraped board after board.

Restoring the home became more feasible last year when the Cumberland Town Council approved a variance for a subdivision of the property the home sits on, allowing Polucha and Keefe to sell a second lot for another home next door.

Keefe and Polucha also enjoyed redoing the outhouse on the property, which will function as a small shed space. The other garage on the property goes with the second parcel that was recently sold.

Michael Keefe was the inspiration behind saving this house, said the couple. He’d purchased the property in July 2017, intent on restoring it and making it his own. The home had been vacant for 31 years, suffering from severe neglect and destined to be razed, they said.

“Mike’s spirit of adventure and love of unique things was the inspiration to take on this challenge,” they said. “His ‘journey’ began with researching the property, cleaning the trash and debris out of the house, and creating a plan for the project.”

In July 2018, Mike’s journey and dream of restoring the property suffered a devasting blow with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. Mike died on Feb. 2, 2019, at the age of 35.

“Around the first anniversary of his passing, we decided to dedicate ourselves to completing Mike’s journey for him and with him in spirit,” said the couple. Let the saving and restoration of the Tower House be an example of what can be accomplished when a seed is planted, and the love of family and friends unite to ensure a dream comes true.”

In honor of Mike, some of the proceeds from the sale of the house will be donated to The Michael T. Keefe Youth Aviation Fund at the Rhode Island Foundation.

Though some have suggested that Keefe and Polucha might be interested in other restoration projects in Cumberland, the couple said the only restoration work they plan to do from here is to help their children with their homes. Both said they’re very happy and proud with what they were able to accomplish to fulfill Michael’s dream, saying they were especially proud to make so many people happy, as this home generated such public interest.

Duckworth told The Breeze he’s happy to be part of this home’s story.

“I have been a resident of Cumberland my entire life and driven by this home thousands of times, always wondering the history of the home and what stories it had to tell,” he said. “I’ve been admiring the transformation of this home over the last year and I wanted to be even just a small part of this project.

“Between the charm of the older style of home with beautiful, original hardwood floors perfectly blended with some modern conveniences, it truly needs to be seen to be appreciated,” he said. “The work Jeff and Paula have done is absolutely amazing. Someone lucky out there is going to get to call this piece of history, home.”

“Welcome to the rebirth of the Lewis Tower House. This beautifully redesigned and reconstructed 2,100-square-foot home provides three bedrooms and two full baths,” states the listing. “A perfect blend of upscale appointments while respecting the historical significance of the home is evident throughout.”

“A fireplace with an original mantel and built-in bookshelves present beautifully in the living room,” the listing states. The kitchen boasts a seven-foot island with a huge farmers’ sink, honed granite countertops, and stainless-steel appliances, all open to a spacious dining room.

“The first full bath features a two-sink vanity with a quartz countertop, shower and tub, and attractive tile floor. There are two bedrooms with oversized closets on this floor. All of this is complemented by the magnificent refurbished original floorboards.

“The next level includes a large third bedroom, the second full bath including granite, and a gorgeous tile floor, and a dedicated laundry room. An open great room is the featured space on this floor, providing recreation and work from home space or possible in-law potential. Additionally, the home has central air conditioning.

“The exterior of the home maintains its historic architectural significance with the grand porch, window trims, original front doors, and chimneys. The finely landscaped yard is framed by two beautiful magnolia trees and 200-year-old granite sentinels at its border.”

According to records, the house was probably standing when Lewis Tower purchased a 19-acre farmstead here from Philip Thomas in 1833.

A view of the living room and kitchen in the Tower House. The mantel and door in the built-ins next to the fireplace are made from wood reclaimed from the 1825 house.
Here's how the Tower House looked before it was transformed.
A look at the old interior of the home.
A side view, complete with a new addition in the middle.

Comments

Project well done!

It is absolutely gorgeous. Thank you Paula and Jeff. A historical treasure restored for Cumberland.

This house and the transformation are magnificent! Congratulations to Jeff and Paula on this labor of love! I had the pleasure of visiting the home recently, and all I can say is "somebody is going to be the lucky owner of this beautiful home."
I understand that historic homes can be tricky. Some purists hope they can be renewed in their original form. I do, too. But in this case, there was simply too much rotted out and lost. The town has lost so many historic homes recently, but in this case, while not "pure," the story will go on for a century or more.
I have been driving by and admiring this home since I, as a Woonsocket boy, drove to my work at Almacs (now Seabra) and admired this home all the way back in 1971. I'm glad I got to see this transformation in my lifetime. 50 years is a long time.
Well done, Jeff and Paula!